MONDAY EDITORIAL

The authorities must do more to secure the future of our children

The fact that Nigeria hardly learn from its experiences was brought to fore last week when the “technically defeated” Boko Haram insurgents invaded a female secondary school in Yobe State and carried away dozens of girls with the authorities, both in the state and Abuja, left in a state of utter confusion. Yet, the experiences of Federal Government College, Buni Yadi where no fewer than 58 male students were brutally assassinated and that of Chibok where several girls are yet to be accounted for almost four years after, should have taught lessons on how to prevent or manage such tragedies.

 Unfortunately, repeated attacks on schools by the insurgents in recent years have created fear in many vulnerable students and their parents, especially in some parts of the country and is affecting the attitude to education with Boko Haram whose guiding philosophy is “western education is sinful” winning the psychological war. The implication of such a state of affair is damaging. When a school is under attack and students become targets, according to Manuel Fotaine, West Africa Regional Director of United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), “not only are their lives shattered, the future of the nation is stolen.”

 Although the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari seems to be managing the optics better, having learnt from the ugly experience of the past, there is no sign that it is doing anything different. First, a claim was put out that many of the girls had been found at a time there was no such thing. And then a visiting Governor Ibrahim Gaidam would be making insensitive remarks to traumatised parents. To compound the problem, there is yet no real confirmation of the actual number of the missing girls beyond mere conjectures.

 In the wake of the tragedy, the Lagos State Chapter of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) Coalition raised several pertinent questions which require answers from the authorities. Some of these questions include but are not limited to: “Are there so many roads and settlements in the immediate area that 100 people can disappear without a trace? Are the insurgents ghosts who move through the landscape unseen and unheard? What arrangements have been made to support the devastated family members of the missing who are holding a vigil until their children are back? What has happened to the Safe Schools Initiative that was launched in 2014 under which schools were to be pooled into safer areas with a military presence?”

 The Safe Schools Initiative, launched after the Chibok kidnap, was meant to counter the growing attacks on the right to education and to build community security groups to promote safe zones for education, consisting of teachers, parents, police and community leaders. “We cannot stand by and see schools shut down, girls cut off from their education and parents in fear of their daughters’ lives,” said former British Prime Minister, Mr. Gordon Brown, then UN Special Envoy on Education at the launch. “The Safe School Initiative will put Nigeria on track to help more and more girls and boys go to school and learn.”

 Unfortunately, the idea has long been abandoned with the schools, including those in the Boko Haram area of operation, left to their individual devices. But with the recent attacks by the insurgent—who have proved conclusively that regardless of what the authorities are saying, they still possess sufficient capacity for evil—there is an urgent need to go back to the drawing board.  We cannot afford to leave our children at the mercy of violent predators bent on truncating their future. It is also time the Buhari administration admitted the reality that Boko Haram is still very strong in their areas of operations that more efforts would be needed to root out the insurgents.